Sports year in review: top rivalry games of 2022

Dec. 28—Tuscola outlasts Pisgah in double overtime

When and where: Oct. 14 at C.E. Weatherby

Final score: 35-34 Tuscola victory

It's like it was written in a stars before it even happened. Two teams with a storied history. A 10-year streak of domination on the line. All of the pomp and circumstance one high school football game could stir up. And a hell of a game to top it all off.

When it was all said and done, Tuscola defeated Pisgah 35-34 to bring the Haywood County Cup back to Waynesville for the first time in nine years, but it took two overtime periods to do it. Getting to the victory wasn't easy, though.

Turnovers and trick plays highlighted the 100th anniversary contest.

Down eight, Tuscola's soon-to-be game MVP Jourdyn Butler scampered 26 yards for a touchdown, and fake run by quarterback Jett Benson turned into a lateral to tight end Lucas Ritter, who forced the ball into the end zone to tie the ball game with just over three minutes left in the game.

Tuscola got the ball first in overtime, with four tries from the 10-yard line to score. Behind two solid runs of 6- and 4-yards, Butler found the end zone to put the Mountaineers up 28-21. Pisgah got its turn next, and put the ball in junior Breydon Reynolds hands twice, and he ran for 7- and zero-yards.

Pisgah sophomore quarterback Aaron Clark took the snap on third down and found Belue on the slant to tie the game at 28. Tuscola got the ball back, and gave senior Dez Rodriguez the chance to make a play. He took the ball for 3- and 6-yards to put the ball on the 1-yard line. Benson kept it on a QB keeper on third down and, after a second effort push, reached across to go up 35-28.

Down seven in double overtime, Reynolds took the ball three straight times for 5-, 2- and 1-yards to give the Bears the ball on the 2-yard line. On fourth down with the game on the line, Clark faked a keeper and lobbed the ball over the line, but the ball fell incomplete and Tuscola won the game.

Player of the game: Tuscola senior Jourdyn Butler (8 carries for 78 yards and three touchdowns)

Best quote: "I told them at seven minutes that somebody's going to make a big play and we're going to win the game," said Tuscola head coach Chris Brookshire. [Senior James Propest] had that big interception and we go down and score. We ended up back and forth doing some crazy stuff. We're so grateful that we made enough plays to win. I'm overjoyed about this."

Pisgah boys soccer finally beats Tuscola

When and where: Sept. 26 at C.E. Weatherby

Final score: 3-0 Pisgah win

Pisgah had one of the best seasons ever, winning a school record 12 games and seven conference games, more than it had won in the past three seasons combined. Pisgah boys soccer was undoubtedly the most surprising team of the year.

Heading into a "home" game against rival Tuscola (the match was technically a "home" game for Pisgah, which lost its home stadium in the August 2021 floods), the Bears were 0-3 against the Mountaineers since their last win, in 2018.

Sophomore Andrew Hardsin scored twice (one in each half) and junior Carlos Hinojosa scored once to walk out of Weatherby with a 3-0 shutout victory over Tuscola.

After the game, two Pisgah players graced Alt with a Gatorade bucket shower.

Player of the game: Pisgah sophomore Andrew Hardin (two points)

Best quote: "I'll take it," said Pisgah head coach Rodney Alt after two of his players showered him in a Gatorade bath in the 50-degree weather. "For the first one over Tuscola."

No. 1 tennis players battle for supremacy

When and where: Oct. 3 at Tuscola

Final score: 7-2 Pisgah victory

Although Pisgah's girls tennis team swept Tuscola this season, the second county clash proved to be a battle between each team's No. 1 player: Pisgah senior Kennedy Barker and Tuscola sophomore Sierra Sellars.

In their first meeting on Sept. 7, Sellars defeated Barker by a score of 10-5.

This time, however, Barker evened the score with a hard fought 4-6, 6-6, (7-2), (10-1) battle with Sellars to jumpstart the Bears team victory.

It was back and forth, with both of the athletes displaying their athleticism, grit and determination.

Even Barker's coach, Harold Shepard, said she played the match with as much heart and intensity as anybody he's seen.

Player of the match: Pisgah senior Kennedy Barker

Best quote: "Sierra's a very good opponent, and she's a great tennis player, but I know every time we play that I'm going to get better and she's going to get better," said Pisgah senior Kennedy Barker.

Tuscola softball walks off with win

When and where: March 29 at Tuscola

Final score: 3-2 Tuscola victory

When Pisgah and Tuscola's softball teams met in spring of this year, the two teams had not met on the field since the 2018-19 season, when the Bears swept the Mounties by a combined score of 22-2.

Both teams were 3-0 entering the game.

The game itself proved a back-and-forth defensive battle, and entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the outlook was bleak for Tuscola.

Down 2-0, seniors Jessie McElroy and Abbey Webster were walked by the Pisgah pitcher.

Tuscola freshman Addi Sampson was next up next. An error by Pisgah led to two stolen bases, sending McElroy and Webster from first and second bases to second and third bases.

Sampson hit her next pitch off of the centerfield fence, a double that sent both runners home to tie the game 2-2 with no outs.

Sampson stole third base on a passed ball, setting her up as the potential game-winning runner.

Junior Ava Kirkpatrick, one of the top sluggers for Tuscola, was up to bat next. Kirkpatrick sent the ball high and straight into centerfield, allowing Sampson to run home for the game-winner while Kirkpatrick threw her arms up in celebration.

Player of the game: Tuscola junior Ava Kirkpatrick (2 for 4 with two singles, including the game-winning RBI)

Best quote: "The thought that went through my brain was just base hit, base hit, there was no outs, and I just had to put it in hard play preferably to the outfield," Tuscola junior Ava Kirkpatrick said.